The Herald, 4 February 1993
NOW that some rains have fallen in the region, the V-shaped figures of women bent double tilling the land can be seen in Southern Africa’s rural landscape.
This hand tillage, mostly done by women, is termed “zero tillage”.
“How demeaning,” said one woman participant at a recent seminar in Harare?
“This term implies that virtually no work is being done. Do those who came up with this label realise how much energy and work it requires?”
Under normal circumstances, tilling the land is done by using ox-drawn ploughs.
But now, with most livestock dead or far too weak to plough as a result of the drought, the work must be done by hand – mostly by women.
Commercial farmers and environmentalists claim that this “zero tillage” is much better for the land. But how much thought has gone to the women who are doing the work?
Lessons for today
Zimbabwean women constitute a large percentage of small scale farmers, whose contribution to food production and security at household level is very well documented.
Due to incessant droughts, they however lack the draught power and high-powered machinery to make meaningful impact in the small-scale farming sector. This is why many have resorted to zero tillage (“kurima chibhakera”), an ancient farming mechanism, which has undergone transformations over the decades.
Livestock diseases such as tick-bone have dealt a major blow on cattle for draught power, hence the adoption of zero tillage in the agricultural industry. Over the years, we have witnessed Government introducing “Zunde raMambo”, “Maguta”, “Zero tillage”, “Command agriculture” and now the “Pfumvudza” initiatives, all meant to improve the country’s food security situation.
Zero tillage is also called “no-till farming” or “direct drilling” – an agricultural method used in crop or pasture growing, without necessarily disturbing the soil through tillage and having little effect on soil erosion.